Issued on Modeselektor's 50 Weapons, Benjamin Damage's solo debut, Heliosphere, can be an at times frustrating listen for the simple fact that its standout moments are diluted by the presence of some that are less striking, specifically, dancefloor tracks that, while on production grounds are unquestionably polished, come across as serviceable techno that lack the personality of the stronger pieces. The ten-track set sees Damage, a Welsh electronic producer currently residing in Berlin who recently garnered attention for a full-length collaboration with Doc Daneeka titled They! Live, attempting an encompassing fusion of Berghain- and Surgeon-styled techno and early Warp-flavoured IDM. A careful listen reveals that elements of acid, ambient, and dub-techno also figure into the mix.
If Heliosphere is anything, it's mercurial. It features a number of straight-up bangers, but also fare such as “Laika,” a hazily atmospheric techno cut that suggests some possible fusion of Surgeon and Plaid, and “Delirium Tremens,” a tripped-out techno dynamo whose pounding techno groove has Ostgut Ton written all over it. The warbly synths glimmering within thick haze in “Together” can't help but call Boards of Canada to mind, while the acidy spirals coursing through “Spirals,” on the other hand, wouldn't sound out of place on Plastikman's Consumed. “End Days” finds Damage situating his sound squarely within the current day, with sci-fi synths languidly swimming through a huge, crackling mass of hiss and static. Even the album cover hints that the album explores different sides of Damage's personality.
The album's peak moment arrives in the second track, “010x,” a muscular piledriver that's about as irresistible and perfectly realized a club track as one might hope to encounter. Goosed by a scratchy riff, the tune kicks into gear immediately with throbbing kick drums paired with slamming snares and sweetened with a classic house piano pattern. To hear the bass-powered material motoring with such fierce determination makes for the album's most memorable moment and one that leaves much of the rest of Heliosphere feeling secondary by comparison.